The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

June 23, 2013

Improving safety

The Register-Herald

— Absolutely nothing can erase the pain of April 5, 2010.

The Upper Big Branch mine explosion was our area’s 9/11, Pearl Harbor and Hurricane Katrina.

The heartache of losing 29 sons, fathers, husbands and grandfathers still stings and will forever be ingrained in our memories.

It was one of our nation’s darkest moments — a workplace disaster that has left us forever saddened as we continue to remember the men who went into the ground that day and didn’t return.

But if there is one positive that can come from that unspeakable tragedy, it would be that through it, miner safety might be greatly improved — perhaps even lives saved.

The future definitely appears brighter, as Running Right Leadership Academy, a $23 million training complex, opened on 10 acres in Boone County this week.

Its purpose is to teach miners and mine rescue teams how to avoid injury and death in any mine disaster.

According to reports, instructors will create simulated fire, floods, roof falls, worker injuries and other severe mine situations. It is open only to Alpha employees for now, but other companies will use the facility that federal prosecutors say assembles the world’s best technology in one place.

The complex was born from a landmark $210 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over the UBB disaster. It is a facility that is greatly needed, and we’re glad that the efforts will enable and prepare thousands of miners for many years to come.

This effort will no doubt help allow miners to return home safely to their families at night.

And that is a wonderful thing.